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The technology does not matter without good process and the right people

For anyone who has worked in the technology space for any amount of time, the old trope of “people-process-technology” can get, well, old.

But just because you’ve heard it a million times doesn’t mean it isn’t true!

The simple truth is, all three factors are critical to long-term success. And one of the most common mistakes associations make is assuming that changing to better technology will improve things, without considering changing processes or the impact people can have on data management.

Focusing only on the process issue, here are just a couple of examples:

  • One association I met with was looking to change data management systems, in part because their current data was so “dirty” that no one on staff really trusted the database or the data. A deeper discussion with staff shed some light on the issue: Each department had their own set of rules and guidelines for what data was captured, and where that data was entered into the database. As the staff freely admitted, “We haven’t been very consistent with how we collect data, or even which field we put that data in. Birthdates, for example, might exist in two or three different fields.”
  • Another association I worked with struggled with getting consistent membership counts from their system. Upon further examination it became clear that the definition of membership within the organization varied from department to department. Some were counting all members, while others were only counting those not in grace (i.e., expired but not yet dropped), while others were only counting active and not retired members. The queries and reports set up in the database over time were all looking at different data, so of course the numbers didn’t match.

In both cases, the primary issue (bad data, bad counts) was not a technology issue at all. It was a process issue. In both cases, the association could have improved the quality of the data by having much more clearly defined business rules and processes, and ensuring that these rules were clearly communicated throughout the organization.

In these cases, and many more, the associations were looking to fix these process problems with new technology. This doesn’t mean they didn’t also need new technology. But technology alone will not solve these problems.

So the next time you think “We need better technology!” make sure you’ve taken care of the other two pieces of the pie: people and process. Especially process. Because it tends to be the easiest to fix and often will have the most immediate impact.

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